Inishmore, Aran Islands
Inishmore is the bigger of a complex of 3 islands named “aran islands”. Those islands flank the Irish west coast and are part of the Galway county. Personally I’ve been there several times and each time I see something new and that I didn’t notice before. Many people that visited inishmore are very likely to come back, many do so because they are seeking a quiet place where to write away from distractions. So I am writing this post because I think Inishmore is a place worth to visit.
But let’s talk about this island
As you can see from this aerial map this island is basically a big platform of limestone. It is divided in 2 parts, a northern part which is more rocky and has some cliffs that shelter the southern part of the island from wind and the atlantic storms. This makes of the southern part an ideal area for harbors and for farms. The first inhabitants of the island found here a challenging place for agriculture because of the rocky nature of the soil. But they managed to solve this issue by hauling sea weed and adding sand to this soil to make it more suitable for crops and cattle.
Another interesting feature of the island is the presence of many almost straight fissures. Their formation is due to the nature of the rocky component. Limestone in fact is susceptible to erosion and lines of weakness in rocks formed those fissures.
But the beauty of this island doesn’t relies only on its cliffs and rocky landscapes, in fact it has 2 main forts, witness of an ancient history. The first one is called Dun Aengus and is placed at the edge of a 100 meters cliff, this is one of the most ancient fort in history.
The second one is as beautiful, it’s called “the black fort” and today it’s placed at the edge of another cliff, but it is believed to have been different in the past. In fact the sea eroded part of the island and were today we have a cliff before there was land, so the island was much bigger before and the fort was believed not to be just a wall on a edge a cliff but a big rounded structure, you can see more on this documentary below.
Because of the isolation of this place, its inhabitants maintained their traditions and this is one of the few places in Ireland where people still speak Irish as their first language, but if you want to visit the inishmore this don’t have to stop you. In fact, the aran islands become a very turistic place in recent years and the inhabitants of the island are very friendly (also because turism is their main source of income).
But how do we get there?well there many ferries daily that leave from the irish west coast, and many of them are associated with buses that can pick you up and bring you back to Galway and all for a decent price.
Although this island is small enough in one day you will struggle to cover everything the reason why is that probably your ferry will arrive at 11 in the morning and leave at 4.30 pm leaving you about 5 hours to visit the whole coast from one side to the other of the island. I am not saying that is impossible but there are some places that are really worth to be seen and not rushed so I would recommend you to spend a night on the island to enjoy it fully.
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What to do once on the island?As you arrive on the island you will find some people to welcome you on the docks offering you bus tours, horse carriage or bike hiring. I always prefer to hire a bike because you are free to stop and go where you want when you want. If you know about other people willing to hire a bike show up as a group to the rent guy and he will most likely offer you a group discount, once he offered us half price!! But that’s not always the case, it depends on how many tourists came with that ferry, but anyway prices usually start from 10 euro and below (the lowest I’ve ever got was 6 euro).
Usually once on the island you will get a map which highlights all the attractions and the places to see, I won’t cover all of them here because generally the main ones are well highlighted and easy to find, but I would like to give you a couple of suggestions, those are my favourite places on the Inishmore and because they are hard to reach people usually miss them. The first one is the black fort, I actually really like the cliffs just below it, you need to be careful because those cliffs are not very safe and there aren't many people around so always try to get there with somebody else just in case something happens. Below you can find a map where I drawn a path to the place. Basically you will have to go through the town and follow the sandy coast. At a certain point there will be on your right a tiny road that goes up hill, there are no signs so you will have to do a bit of a guess work (but luckily there are not many roads there, so you hardly will be wrong). After you go uphill you will have to go right and you will notice that the road starts getting bumpy so at a certain point you may have to leave your bikes and walk (don’t worry about the bikes, the island it’s pretty safe and nobody will steal them). There is a road so you will just have to follow it, keep always in mind the direction where you are going, you want to get to the opposite side of the island so go towards the sea.
You will get at the top of the hill and you will see a flat rocky top, you won’t be able to see the cliffs until you get really close so don’t worry and go ahead. You may have to climb few tiny walls on the way but at the end you will see it will be worth it.
When you will see this you will know you are arrived to the right spot.
A last place that could be fun to see (and generally get ignored by tourists) is the wormhole. This is a natural rectangular pool into which the sea ebbs and flows at the bottom of the cliffs. To reach this place you can follow the signs you will find in proximity of the biggest fort, Dun Aengus. This is a bit hard to find because it’s concealed by the cliffs but it’s definitely worth the effort.
If you decide to take this trip I'm sure you will have good time, the nicest period to go is from late april until september, I would avoid july and august as usually the weather in those months it's quite rainy in ireland and there are way too many tourists around. I hope you will enjoy your trip to the aran islands. Feel free to leave comments or to ask if there anything you would like to know about Inishmore.